Sindh is now fast becoming the new killing field for Pakistan Army. Scores of Sindhis, mostly those who have been raising their voice against injustice and human rights violations, are disappearing into secret prisons, detained illegally, tortured and many of them then brutally killed and their bodies dumped unceremoniously. What is happening in Sindh today is what has been happening in Balochistan for decades.
In Balochistan, several thousand Baloch have died or “disappeared“ due to the brutality of Pakistan Army. Scores continue to be hunted and shot by the Pakistan Army and other allied security forces, all in the name of counter-terrorism while real terrorists live happily under the protective umbrella of the benevolent Generals. The army, over the years, in collusion with the civilian political leadership, has been treating the Baloch people as the enemy of the state. The only reason why the Baloch have been hunted so mercilessly, for the past 70 years, is their persistent and determined demand for equality and justice from the state. Instead of accepting to work in providing the same, the state chose to demonise and brutally suppress any such “dissent“.
In Sindh, a similar repressive measure was enforced when a growing movement for independent Sindh had gained traction. A large section of the Sindhis were miffed at the Punjabi-ruled and dominated state’s partisan attitude towards their home province, Sindh. What had caused wide-spread and deep resentment among the Sindhis was how Punjab got the better share of the resources and attention from the government as well as the military establishment. This `step-motherly` treatment was glaring in sharing the critical water resources—much of the water which Pakistan gained from the Indus Water Treaty with India went to Punjab and only a trickle came to Sindh. There were countless other instances where Punjab was (and continue to be) preferred over other provinces.
When the Sindhis raised their voice against this unjust and unfair attitude and actions of the federal government, they were either dubbed as dissenters and accused of working on behalf of the enemy, India. This was like a double attack on the Sindhis who were as patriotic as any other Punjabi or Pathan and what they were demanding was their legitimate right as a citizen of a free country. As the dissent began to gather steam, the army went into an overdrive and began hunting down the leaders of the rebellious movement. With scores of Sindhis activists being killed and detained, the movement only gathered further momentum. This in turn attracted greater brutality on the part of the army. The result of a systematic decimation of Sindhi leaders and the brutal suppression of the movement for equality and justice.
After decades of silence and suppressed dissent, the Sindhis are now once more rising up in protest against the federal government’s continuous partisan attitude towards Sindh and its development. The state, especially the army which is rightly called the Deep State in Pakistan, is responding even more vehemently against its own citizens demanding fair share of resources and development. For years now, the voice of renewed dissent was few and far and with many of the leaders abducted by the security forces and then tortured or killed kept the movement on a low flame. This is now changing.
Two reasons can be cited for this spurt in Sindhi protests which are now gaining momentum. One is that Pakistan Army, emboldened by its “unopposed“ brutalities in Balochistan and the near absence of any effective political leadership, is determined to run roughshod over the people of Sindh. The judiciary is within their control and the people elsewhere, including the media, are not either affected or care about the goings on in Sindh. Like in Balochistan. Gross human rights violations in Balochistan for decades have met with a dead silence on the part of an otherwise `free ` media. Resentment and dissent in Sindh too have remained out of the newspapers.
The second reason is that Sindhis are now coming out more openly, boldly to protest at what they call a brutal assault on their freedom, their rights and their citizenship. The state is now turning into their feared enemy. The state, which should have heard their plea, given them protection, is bent on shutting them up with brutal means. In the past few weeks, prominent Sindh leaders and human rights campaigners and journalists have been reported to be detained by the army—many of them stopped in the middle of the road, abducted by armed men in SUVs and then made to disappear. Several have returned dead, their bodies marked with signs of brutal torture. Even the lawyers who have been knocking at the doors of justice are being threatened to withdraw cases or face a similar fate.
The English daily, Dawn, on August 9, 2017, in an editorial titled “Missing in Sindh“, finally spoke out in clear and strong terms. “An all-too-familiar and sinister pattern is beginning to repeat itself in Sindh. The past few weeks have seen increasing agitation against enforced disappearances of political activists in the province. On Thursday, PunhalSario, the leader of the recently formed Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh, was also picked up from Hyderabad by — according to an eyewitness — around a dozen men in police commando uniforms.Then on Saturday, some family members of the self-exiled separatist leader of the banned Jeay Sindh MuttahidaMahaz, ShafiBurfat, were whisked away from their residence.“
The newspaper said: “Even a single case of enforced disappearance is one too many, but when those protesting the abductions, and the family members of the missing, are themselves disappeared, it is an even more ominous development. It speaks of an increasingly authoritarian state accountable to no one but itself and willing to go to any lengths to crush all dissent. Balochistan has long been a theatre for abductions by state-affiliated elements.“
The editorial wrote that while it was difficult to verify all the allegations, “ it can be said with some certainty that enforced disappearance has been used as a tool of state repression to counter nationalist sentiment in the area.More recently, the war against terrorism has provided a pretext for carrying out enforced disappearances in the rest of the country as well, with the highest incidence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.“
This continuing arc of brutality and instability within Pakistan, inflicted and caused by Pakistan Army, calls for an immediate attention from the United Nations and the international community as a whole. No state, which is part of the UN, should be allowed to abduct and kill its own citizens with such impunity as Pakistan, especially its army, has been doing in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, now Sindh.